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ARTICLESEffective Communication

IT’S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

Surfing the net on customer relations I came across a website that said machines are cheaper but people are sweeter. It further says that there will come a time when only the rich can afford to deal with human beings. The poor will have to make do with technology.

The moment people talk about managing customer relationships one tends to relate it with technology, process and procedures, mapping, tracking and all sorts of high tech stuff. True, technology helps in maintaining a customer database. They provide us with customer information, trends, business profile, segmentation, comparative analysis and whole lot of other information. Processes, procedures, mapping tracking all these help in improving our performance. They all support us to better satisfy our customers.

While all this has stemmed from the root, which is understanding customer requirements, they lack the finesse that only a human being can extend to a customer. Person-to-person business. Though technology loads us with information and strategies, they do not touch that subtle area in the customer that emits a feeling of pleasure and delight while dealing with humans - The most important factor in converting a ‘customer’ to a ‘friendly customer’.

IMPERSONAL INTERFACE
I came across this mail (I am sure many have received it as well) where a customer calls this fast food outlet to place an order. The moment the call is logged, the system has all information on the caller. His name, where he is calling from, his health condition, the kind of pizza he must order, his withdrawal limit from the ATM, whether his vehicle was mortgaged or not, even about how he was pulled up for abusing. This might seem a funny situation and give us an idea on what to expect with the rapid advancement in information technology. But in retrospection, it has serious implications on customer service and satisfaction. Given such a situation, something that quite certainly can be foreseen, one needs to review customer relationships in its true sense.

Customer relationship should be all about converting walk-in customers to customers for life. It’s about how every customer can become a friend and every friend a partner in your business. He acts as the catalyst responsible for your growth and success. It’s about delighting customers who in return satisfy your business yearning. It is about rendering excellent service that leads to building good relationships. Relationships that encourage you to serve better. Relationships, that gives the power to brag. It’s about breaking those barriers of provider and customer and moving into a realm of service that goes beyond a commercial venture. It is converting a customer to a friendly customer.

DO YOU?
Do you know your customers name? … Expanded? Do you know the name of the spouse? Do you know if they have children? How many? Girls or Boys? How old are they? Where do they live? What car do they have? What color he likes? What food she prefers? Do they have a dog? What’s its name? Birthdays, anniversary. A corn in his toe, a bad back, sprained ankle. Mother-in-law. Weekend poker parties. Do you know him outside of your work area?

Does the customer know your name? … Expanded? The environment you work in? The colleagues you work with? Your family, your birthday. Your pains and pleasure. Your headaches and heartthrobs. Your likes and dislikes.

I DO
If you both answer with an “I do” you have a relationship where you need not focus on your customer. You only need to serve a friend. And when you serve a friend it does not get tiring. It’s not a painful exercise. It makes service a pleasure. It makes work a pleasure giving it a totally new and different meaning.

Mr. King has been doing his travel arrangements with Bob for over 3 years. They have come to know each other so well that after all these years Bob is aware of his friend King’s habits, manners, idiosyncrasies, work patterns, etc. He knows Kings seat, meal, hotel, limousine and other requirements inside out. He hence services accordingly.

Though Bob has the liberty to call King anytime, he always considers his friends schedule before making a call. However should there be an emergency Bob would not think twice before calling, even if it were midnight. Bob takes the freedom to advice, suggest and warn King on many issues. Sometimes he even takes decision on behalf of King.

King does not mind Bob calling him anytime. He has faith that Bob will not do so without a valid reason. He takes Bob’s tips seriously. King is also aware of Bob’s craze for neckties and gifts him one from every trip.

They have developed a healthy relationship over time that King has no worries with his travel arrangements, so long as his friend Bob is around and Bob is also not anxious about losing his friend King’s business.

EMPATHY
Healthy customer relationships lead to understanding and empathy. Understanding each other’s situations and environment helps in accommodation. Mishandle, delay, shortfall, miscommunication, misunderstanding do not exist in their dictionary. There is no room for it. Should any of these ever occur, you have the courage to own up without repercussions. Unforeseen delays or mix-ups are sorted together. There is no blaming game. It is a co-operative effort to see it end well.

PERSONAL INTERFACE
While speaking to your service provider you could always conclude a conversation in 2 minutes keeping it purely to business. Instead try chatting up and getting to know the other person better. While chatting may seem a loss of time, resource and money it actually yields good returns from the service point of view. It helps break barriers. Knowing the person well helps you empathize with him during times of pressures or delays. It gives more comfort during communication; ease while working schedules; overcomes ambiguity and clears any misunderstandings. Demanding situations and those that require accommodation are all taken in the same stride.

EMPLOYEE RELATIONSHIPS

Mr. Wright the boss strides into the office and is all excited about the meeting he had that morning with King. He goes about briefing Bob on the details. While raving about how he got to know King better he says “Bob did you know that King has a daughter born on 01 Jan 2000. Wow it’s a day to remember. I have never come across anyone born on a special day as this” To this Bob replies “Sir my daughter was also born on 01 Jan 2000”

As important it is to know your customers and build a healthy relationship, it is more important to know your employees and develop a bond. Knowing and understanding them well enables you to reach out to them. You understand and maintain good relations with your employees and they will do the same with your customers. The reverse is also true.

‘If the customer gains then you gain’ but stretching it a bit further ‘if the employee gains, the customer gains and if the customer gains then you gain’. It is all about relationships.

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